Interesting difference in prayers

I’ve been looking at the presentation of the Prayers of Thanksgiving After Holy Communion as presented in different Orthodox prayer books, and have run across some interesting variants in different editions.

The variation occurs with the theotokion following the troparion and kontakion determined by the Saint whose Liturgy was just celebrated (St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great, St Gregory the Dialogist).

For instance, in the Jordanville Prayer Book, the theotokion here is a beautiful one: “O protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame, O mediation unto the Creator unfailing, disdain not the suppliant voices of sinners; but be thou quick, O good one, to help us who in faith cry unto thee; hasten to intercession and speed thou to make supplication, thou who dost ever protect, O Theotokos, them that honor thee.” (In Greek, this theotokion begins, “Προστασια των Χριστιανων…”.) This appears to be the most common usage, to have some form of this kontakion used in this position. For instance, this appears in The Liturgikon produced by the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, though as a footnote, with yet another variation in the main text, which is related to the recommended kontakion mentioned on the SCOBA site: “The Church is revealed to all as a brilliantly lit heaven, leading the faithful in the way of the light. Standing therein we cry aloud: make firm the foundation of this house, Lord.” This one also appears (though my memory may be playing a trick on me) in this place in the Greek-English Liturgikon published by Narthex Press (which is very nice, by the way).

In the Holy Transfiguration Monastery Prayer Book (which I generally prefer), instead of a theotokion is simply this supplication: “By the intercession, O Lord, of all the Saints and the Theotokos, do Thou grant us Thy peace and have mercy on us, since Thou alone art compassionate.” I contacted the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, and received a prompt reply from Fr Parthenius there, stating that in the typica, such minor variations are many. Their choice has been to find the usage in older, reputable sources, and to follow those. (He didn’t know the specifics in this case.) This is a very helpful and illuminating answer, and a comforting one. So, the HTM Prayer Book’s usage is certainly an old one.

Our brand new priest (new for us, that is) is having these prayers read after the Liturgy, which is a very welcome practice! (Now we’ll just have to get people used to staying for them, rather than rushing off to the coffee hour!) He’s using the Antiochian Liturgikon, which is a nice translation, but I think with a little searching, I’ll be able to find the HTM version of Προστασια των Χριστιανων so that I can simply use my little HTM Prayer Book to follow along and/or read (we read them in English, I should have mentioned). In any case, I’m happy for these prayers now becoming a regular part of our parish life. I certainly had not been consistent at all in praying them, though I really wanted to be. Now I have that opportunity, and we can do it all together, like one of those beautifully admirable Russian parishes!

Another new thing will be a Paraklisis every Wednesday evening followed by a Bible Study, starting next week. What a great thing that’ll be! Next thing you know, we’ll have a whole mess o’ services all week, and I’ll be happy as a clam.

Meditations on a Name

Jesus, most wonderful, Astonishment of Angels.
Jesus, most powerful, Deliverance of Forefathers.
Jesus, most sweet, Exultation of Patriarchs.
Jesus, most glorious, Dominion of kings.
Jesus, most desired, Fulfilment of Prophets.
Jesus, most praised, Steadfastness of Martyrs.
Jesus, most gladsome, Comfort of monastics.
Jesus, most compassionate, Sweetness of presbyters.
Jesus, most merciful, Abstinence of fasters.
Jesus, most tender, Joy of the righteous.
Jesus, most pure, Sobriety of virgins.
Jesus, pre-eternal, Salvation of sinners.
Jesus, God before the ages.
Jesus, King almighty.
Jesus, Master long-suffering.
Jesus, Saviour most merciful.
Jesus, my Guardian most kind.
Jesus, be gracious unto my sins.
Jesus, take away my iniquities,
Jesus, pardon my unrighteousness.
Jesus, my Hope, forsake me not.
Jesus, my Helper, reject me not.
Jesus, my Creator, forget me not.
Jesus, my Shepherd, lose me not.
Jesus, invincible Power.
Jesus, unending Mercy.
Jesus, radiant Beauty.
Jesus, unspeakable Love.
Jesus, Son of the living God.
Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Jesus, hearken unto me who was conceived in iniquity.
Jesus, cleanse me who was born in sin.
Jesus, teach me who am become foolish.
Jesus, enlighten me who am darkened.
Jesus, purify me who am defiled.
Jesus, restore me, the prodigal.
Jesus, Creator of those on high.
Jesus, Redeemer of those below.
Jesus, Vanquisher of the nethermost powers.
Jesus, Adorner of every creature.
Jesus, Comforter of my soul.
Jesus, Enlightener of my mind.
Jesus, Gladness of my heart.
Jesus, Health of my body.
Jesus, my Saviour, save me.
Jesus, my Light, enlighten me.
Jesus, from all torment deliver me.
Jesus, save me who am unworthy.
Jesus, true God.
Jesus, Son of David.
Jesus, glorious King.
Jesus, innocent Lamb.
Jesus, Shepherd most marvellous.
Jesus, Protector of mine infancy.
Jesus, Guide of my youth.
Jesus, Boast of mine old age.
Jesus, my Hope at death.
Jesus, my Life after death.
Jesus, my Comfort at Thy judgment.
Jsesus, my Desire, let me not then be ashamed.
Jesus, Truth dispelling falsehood.
Jesus, Light transcending every light.
Jesus, King surpassing all in strength.
Jesus, God constant in mercy.
Jesus, Bread of life, fill me who am hungry.
Jesus, Well-spring of knowledge, refresh me who am thirsty.
Jesus, Garment of gladness, clothe me who am naked.
Jesus, Haven of joy, shelter me who am unworthy.
Jesus, Giver to those who ask, grant me mourning for my sins.
Jesus, Finder of those who seek, find my soul.
Jesus, Opener to those who knock, open my hardened heart.
Jesus, Redeemer of sinners, wash away my sins.
Jesus, Word uncontainable.
Jesus, Intelligence unfathomed.
Jesus, Power incomprehensible.
Jesus, Wisdom immeasurable.
Jesus, Divinity indepictable.
Jesus, Dominion unbounded.
Jesus, Kingdom invincible.
Jesus, Sovereignty unending.
Jesus, Strength sublime.
Jesus, Authority everlasting.
Jesus, my Creator, fashion me anew.
Jesus, Sweetness of my heart.
Jesus, Stength of my body.
Jesus, Light of my soul.
Jesus, Alacrity of my mind.
Jesus, Gladness of my conscience.
Jesus, Hope unexcelled.
Jesus, Remembrance everlasting.
Jesus, Praise most exalted.
Jesus, my Glory most sublime.
Jesus, my Desire, reject me not.
Jesus, my Shepherd, seek me out.
Jesus, God of gods.
Jesus, King of kings.
Jesus, Lord of lords.
Jesus, Judge of the living and the dead.
Jesus, Hope of the despairing.
Jesus, Comfort of the mourning.
Jesus, Provision of the poor.
Jesus, condemn me not according to my deeds.
Jesus, cleanse me according to Thy mercy.
Jesus, dispel my despondency.
Jesus, enlighten the thoughts of my heart.
Jesus, make me ever mindful of death.
Jesus, Treasure unfailing.
Jesus, Wealth inexpendable.
Jesus, Food most substantial.
Jesus, Drink inexhaustible.
Jesus, Raiment of the poor.
Jesus, Defender of widows.
Jesus, Protector of orphans.
Jesus, Champion of those in hardships.
Jesus, Companion of those who journey.
Jesus, Pilot of voyagers.
Jesus, Calm Haven of the tempest-tossed.
Jesus, raise me who am fallen.
Jesus, my King supremely powerful.
Jesus, my God omnipotent.
Jesus, my Lord immortal.
Jesus, my Creator most glorious.
Jesus, my Guide supreme in goodness.
Jesus, my Shepherd most compassionate.
Jesus, my Master rich in mercy.
Jesus, my Saviour, Friend of man.
Jesus, enlighten my senses darkened by passions.
Jesus, heal my body wounded by sins.
Jesus, cleanse my mind from vain thoughts.
Jesus, preserve my heart from evil desires.
Jesus, King of peace, bestow Thy peace upon me.
Jesus, sweet-scented Flower, make me fragrant.
Jesus, longed-for Warmth, warm Thou me.
Jesus, eternal Temple, shelter me.
Jesus, resplendent Garment, adorn me.
Jesus, Pearl of great price, enrich me.
Jesus, precious Stone, illumine me.
Jesus, Sun of Righteousness, shine on me.
Jesus, holy Light, make me radiant.
Jesus, deliver me from infirmity of soul and body.
Jesus, rescue me from the hands of the adversary.
Jesus, save me from the everlasting torments.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.

Selections from The Akathist Hymn to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ, translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Brookline)

A great new blog

Some readers will have noticed the book that I still have in my “Currently Reading” spot to the right here: Anders Gerdmar’s Roots of Theological Anti-semitism (Brill, 2009), which I’ve posted some notes on already.

Well, just tonight I happily received a message from Anders Gerdmar himself, informing me (and thereby you, dear reader) of his new blog: Anders Gerdmar―Exegetical Notes and Blog. Some of his work in progress relates to the Jews in the Gospel According to John, of which depiction he says, and which I think any informed reader will agree with, “the picture is far more complex than is currently assumed.” He’s also working on another book with the working title The ‘Jew’ as the Perpetual Other, of which he says:

Christian exegesis has more often than not constructed the ‘Jew’ as the perpetual other. In a forthcoming book with this working title, I begin in New Testament texts, looking for how they describe the relationship to Jews and Judaism. Secondly, I follow the history of exegesis in relation to the Jews, talking about a ‘hermeneutics of exclusion’. Finally I discuss the linkage between exegetical theology and genocide, but not only that. I try to outline a ‘hermeneutics of association’, starting in Romans 9–11.

Very interesting!

Anyhow, if you were interested in my posts here related to the subject of his book or his book itself, I’m sure you’ll enjoy his blog, as well.

These vespers of another year

The sylvan slopes with corn-clad fields
Are hung, as if with golden shields,
Bright trophies of the sun!
Like a fair sister of the sky,
Unruffled doth the blue lake lie,
The mountains looking on.

And, sooth to say, yon vocal grove,
Albeit uninspired by love,
By love untaught to ring,
May well afford to mortal ear
An impulse more profoundly dear
Than music of the Spring.

For that from turbulence and heat
Proceeds, from some uneasy seat
In nature’s struggling frame,
Some region of impatient life:
And jealousy, and quivering strife,
Therein a portion claim.

This, this is holy;—while I hear
These vespers of another year,
This hymn of thanks and praise,
My spirit seems to mount above
The anxieties of human love,
And earth’s precarious days.

But list!—though winter storms be nigh,
Unchecked is that soft harmony:
There lives Who can provide
For all His creatures; and in Him,
Even like the radiant Seraphim,
These choristers confide.

William Wordsworth
September 1819

Get some millstones ready

The “Organization Claiming Autocephaly” is up to some “interesting” things yet again.

You may read the details at Vara Drezhlo’s blog: here and here.

This has been going on for well over a year now, and it is unresolved. This kind of behavior is scandalous, utterly scandalous, the laying of stones in front of the trusting and the blind alike in order to trip them. And for what? Have they forgotten Who they work for?

Please remember that family in your prayers, and all the souls affected by this, that they might not be driven away from the Church by this kind of behavior!

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18.6)

Unkindness

Lord, make me coy and tender to offend:
In frienship first I think if that agree,
                    Which I intend,
          Unto my friend’s intent and end.
I would not use a friend, as I use Thee.

If any touch my friend, or his good name,
It is my honour and my love to free
                    His blasted fame
          From the least spot or thought of blame.
I could not use a friend as I use Thee.

My friend may spit upon my curious floor:
Would he have gold? I lend it instantly;
                    But let the poor,
          And Thou within them starve at door.
I cannot use a friend, as I use Thee.

When that my friend pretendeth to a place,
I quit my interest, and leave it free:
                    But when Thy grace
          Sues for my heart, I Thee displace,
Nor would I use a friend as I use Thee.

Yet can a friend what Thou hast done fulfil?
O write in brass, My God upon a tree
                    His blood did spill
          Only to purchase my good-will:
Yet use I not my foes, as I use Thee.

George Herbert, 1633

For Love

Ἄξιόν ἐστίν ὡς ἀληθῶς,
μακαρίζειν σε τὴν Θεοτόκον,
τὴν ἀειμακάριστον καὶ παναμώμητον,
καὶ Μητέρα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶ͂ν.
Τὴν τιμιωτέραν τῶ͂ν Χερουβὶμ,
καὶ ἐνδοξοτέραν ἀσυγκρίτως τῶ͂ν Σεραφίμ,
τὴν ἀδιαφθόρως Θεὸν Λόγον τεκοῦσαν,
τὴν ὄντως Θεοτόκον σε μεγαλύνομεν.

 
 
It is truly meet
to bless Τhee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure,
and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.
Without corruption Τhou gavest birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee!

 
 
 
The justly famous Axion Estin. Last four lines by St Cosmas the Melodist, brother of St John Damaskene. First four lines revealed in 980 AD by the Archangel Gabriel, and written by his finger, as described here. I would make a terrible psalti, as I have trouble singing this all the way through: I always tear up. Softy.
 
 
Ταῖς πρεσβείαις τῆς Θεοτόκου, Σῶτερ, σῶσον ἠμᾶς!

 
 

Martyrs’ Song

We meet in joy, though we part in sorrow ;
We part to-night, but we meet to-morrow.
Be it flood or blood the path that’s trod,
All the same it leads home to God :
Be it furnace-fire voluminous,
One like God’s Son will walk with us.

What are these that glow from afar,
These that lean over the golden bar,
Strong as the lion, pure as the dove,
With open arms and hearts of love?
They the blessed ones gone before,
They the blessed for evermore.
Out of great tribulation they went
Home to their home of Heaven-content ;
Through flood or blood or furnace-fire,
To the rest that fulfils desire.

What are these that fly as a cloud,
With flashing heads and faces bowed,
In their mouths a victorious psalm,
In their hands a robe and a palm?
Welcoming angels these that shine,
Your own angel, and yours, and mine ;
Who have hedged us both day and night
On the left hand and on the right,
Who have watched us both night and day
Because the devil keeps watch to slay.

Light above light, and Bliss beyond bliss,
Whom words cannot utter, lo Who is This?
As a King with many crowns He stands,
And our names are graven upon His hands :
As a Priest, with God-uplifted eyes,
He offers for us His Sacrifice ;
As the Lamb of God for sinners slain,
That we too may live He lives again ;
As our Champion behold Him stand,
Strong to save us, at God’s Right Hand.

God the Father give us grace
To walk in the light of Jesus’ Face :
God the Son give us a part
In the hiding-place of Jesus’ Heart :
God the Spirit so hold us up
That we may drink of Jesus’ cup.

Death is short and life is long ;
Satan is strong, but Christ more strong.
At His Word Who hath led us hither
The Red Sea must part hither and thither.
At His Word Who goes before us too,
Jordan must cleave to let us through.

Yet one pang searching and sore,
And then Heaven for evermore :
Yet one moment awful and dark,
Then safety within the Veil and the Ark ;
Yet one effort by Christ His grace,
Then Christ for ever face to face.

God the Father we will adore,
In Jesus’ Name, now and evermore :
God the Son we will love and thank
In this flood and on the farther bank ;
God the Holy Ghost we will praise,
In Jesus’ Name though endless days :
God Almighty, God Three in One,
God Almighty, God alone.

Christina Georgina Rossetti. 20 March 1863.

Bibles and Authorities

Recently on a particular academic mailing list, someone entirely in earnest put forth the question, “Which is the Christian Old Testament—the Septuagint or the Masoretic Text?” This person rightly recognized the use of various versions by the Apostles and our Lord in the New Testament, a point to which we will return. However, his rather simple question brings to mind a flood of further questions and answers. Thus a relatively simple question involves much more than a simple answer of one word.

Firstly, this is not a question that can be answered as it is phrased. Why is that? It is because different Christians have different Biblical canons and hold different versions of the Old Testament (and, mutatis mutandis, the New Testament). Thus there is no single “the Christian Old Testament.” A more proper question would be “Which is the Old Testament of the [insert descriptor] Christian?” where the descriptor is “Roman Catholic”, or “Greek Orthodox”, or “Lutheran”, and so on. A more informed question will point in a meaningful way to the issues involved, and the correct answer for the particular situation in view. For a Roman Catholic, the official Old Testament (established by canon law) is the Clementine Latin Vulgate. Although translations from the Hebrew Masoretic Text have been made (as in The Jerusalem Bible and The New American Bible), these were to take into account the differences in the Vulgate, preferring them to readings in the Hebrew where different. For the Greek Orthodox, the Septuagint is the Old Testament (mostly the Old Greek editions of books, though in some cases with other versions having replaced the Old Greek, e.g., the Theodotionic Daniel). But the form of liturgical readings preserved in the Prophetologion, trumps the preferred continuous text (based on that of Codex Alexandrinus). That is, where the liturgical texts differ (in Old or New Testament readings), they are preferred, and editions of the continuous text Septuagint are altered to reflect the litugical versions. All the Orthodox (Eastern and Oriental) hold to the liturgical texts as canonical. For the Syrian Orthodox, their own continuous-text Old Testament is the Peshitta, with additions from later versions, and these are adjusted to the liturgical texts where necessary. And so on. There is, however, the interesting case in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communions that the versions held as primarily authoritative for each national church (Coptic, Greek, Syrian, Georgian, etc) are not held to be exclusively authoritative. That is, the other versions used in the communion are recognized as valid, inspired, and true.

And yet we are also faced with the anomaly of the Protestant preference for the Hebrew Masoretic Text as the basis for their Old Testament. Although the Lutheran and Anglican canons include various books of the Apocrypha within their own canons (originally deriving from the Vulgate versions, most of which in turn derive from the Septuagint), the books existent in the Hebrew Masoretic Text are considered of primary authority. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshitta and other versions are considered additional witnesses to an earlier version of the Hebrew text that is since lost or corrupted, and they are (in)consistently mined for their variant readings to address that situation.

The development of the discussion led into the territory of which one of these versions is “true” for the Christian. At this date, the answer can only be “all and none.” There are two reasons for this. Firstly, all of the versions of the Old Testament are recognized by some ecclesiastical authority as true and inspired and canonical for their respective flocks, and yet all recognize that errors have crept into the texts so that none is exactly perfect, and thus not exclusively true. Secondly, due to the variety of errors in transmission and the variety of textual traditions in question, it is certainly the case that no version (not even the Masoretic, as careful as they were) preserves a text entirely uncorrupted, much less a single manuscript. Yet in aggregate, some find it to be the case that where one tradition is in error, another may be correct, and perhaps all of these issues can be worked out, so that all the versions may be considered, in toto, to represent the original accurately. So in that sense, it is only by seeing all versions as exemplars of an original text, some more distant from it than others, that “all” may be considered true. This understanding lies at the heart of textual criticism Bible, whether of a version of the Old Testament (Hebrew Masoretic Text, Septuagint, Peshitta, etc) or the New Testament.

Even so, a question such as “Which of these versions is true for a Christian?” is not the kind of question that can be answered on an academic mailing list, nor should it be asked of one. This is precisely because of the multi-confessional situation described above. In addition, however, the Academy has no standing to answer that question. That is, it is outside the competence of the Academy to decide in such matters. The answer to that particular question lies in the realm of ecclesiastical authority and religious tradition. There can be no academic answer to it. The Church and the Academy are separate worlds, with distinct boundaries. And while each may learn from the other, they are neither one beholden to one another’s conclusions.

We return now to a very interesting fact: the use of various versions of the Old Testament in quotation by the Apostles and our Lord in the New Testament. Setting aside a detailed description of the quotations and issues involved (though referring the reader to the excellent Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Beale and Carson), I will posit that the answer to all the questions asked above is thereby given. That is, the Christian is to consider all the various available versions inspired and authoritative, just as the Apostles and our Lord did, quoting from one or another at a given time. Lo and behold, that is the situation amongst the Orthodox churches exclusively of Christian communions. While others maintain exclusive focus on one or another text as inspired, the Orthodox recognize the validity of several inspired translations of a now partly lost inspired Hebrew original, recognizing that the Masoretic Text itself is, as it surely is, itself a later descendant of those lost originals.

So, while an individual should turn to his own liturgical tradition for an answer in these matters, it is possible to find a reflection of the practices of the Apostles and our Lord Himself in the practices of the Orthodox Church today. I recommend that approach highly, just as I recommend Orthodox Christianity, where my own heart dwells, to all.

On Nebuchadnezzar

For first, in the vision of the statue, he was compared to gold, which is better than everything that is administered in the world.

In the vision of the beasts he was compared to a lion which is superior in its might to all other beasts.

He was compared again to an eagle which is more glorious than all other birds.

Whatever is written about him has been fulfilled in him. For the Lord said about him, “I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all the nations, and they will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. I have even given him the beasts of the field and the birds of heaven to serve him” (Jer 28.14; 25.11).

For when the king was like the head of gold, men served him like a king, and when he went out to the desert, the beasts served him as a lion.

When his hair was like that of an eagle, birds of heaven served him like an eagle.

When his heart was raised and he did not know that the power had been given to him from heaven, the yoke of iron was broken from the neck of the sons of men and he went out with the beasts, and instead of the heart of the kind, the heart of a lion was given to him.

When he became exalted over the beasts, the heart of a lion was removed from him and the heart of a bird was given to him.

When wings emerged from him like those of an eagle, he exalted himself over the birds, and then the wings were also pulled out and lowly heart was given to him.

When he recognized that the Most High had power in the kingdom of man to give ti to whom He wishes, then he sang praise as a man.

St Aphrahat. Demonstration V (On Wars), § 16